SPJVA board condemns actions of Liberty University in seeking arrest warrants for journalists

The board of the SPJ Virginia Pro chapter condemns the actions of Liberty University in seeking arrest warrants for journalists involved in covering the partial reopening of Liberty’s campus in Lynchburg, Va., amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Attempts to charge Julia Rendleman, a freelance photographer for The New York Times, and Alec MacGillis, a ProPublica reporter, with trespassing represent an assault on the First Amendment and the rights of a free press, the board said in a statement issued on April 9.

The journalists were reporting about a health crisis of public interest and importance, and doing so in a professional and responsible manner. By pursuing criminal charges, Liberty University has cast a chilling effect on newsgathering activities vital to a free and democratic society.
The SPJ Legal Defense Fund is available to help journalists in defending the freedom of speech and press.